The new statutory sick pay (SSP) scheme was approved by the Cabinet at the end of March 2022 and is coming into effect in September 2022.
Ireland is finally catching up with other EU countries and all workers will be entitled to paid sick leave for the first time.
The new legislation is set to ensure a minimum level of protection is provided to low-paid employees, who may have no entitlement to a company sick pay scheme.
Leo Varadkar, the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, said: “Ireland is one of the few advanced countries in Europe not to have a mandatory sick pay scheme and although many, we think approximately half, of employers do provide sick pay, we need to make sure that security, that safety net, is there for all workers, regardless of their job.”
The Statutory sick pay scheme is for all employees and will roll-out over a four-year period.
Once the Bill has been enacted, the scheme will come into force in September 2022.
Both full and part-time employees are entitled to a rate of 70% of usual daily earnings up to €110 a day for three days.
In 2024, this rises to five days of paid leave, and then increases again to seven days in 2025, and ten days in 2026.
The SSP will be in addition to other leave entitlements including annual leave, parental and maternity leave as well as public holidays.
An employee is entitled to avail of statutory sick pay when:
• The employee has completed a minimum 13 weeks’ continuous service.
• The employee obtains a medical certificate from a registered medical practitioner which must state that the employee named is unfit for work due to their illness or injury
Additionally, once entitlement to sick pay from their employer ends, employees who are still unfit to return to work may qualify for illness benefit from the Department of Social Protection subject to PRSI contributions.
The scheme will be enforced through the Workplace Relations Commission and the courts system.
Employers are obliged to ensure that employees who take statutory sick leave aren’t treated differently and should not be penalised for their absence. Penalisation includes dismissal or layoff, coercion, demotion or transfer of duties.
Additionally, any absence in relation to SSP should not affect any other employment rights – whether statutory or contract.
Employment contracts should be reviewed in light of the upcoming legislation
The Sick Leave Bill states that if an existing provision for paid sick leave in an employment contract is as favourable or more favourable than the statutory provision, then the employer’s obligation under the legislation is met.
The Bill further states any such provision shall be a “substitution for, and not in addition to” the entitlement.
Conversely, the existing pay sick leave provision will be deemed to be modified if it is less favourable than the entitlement provided under the legislation.
Criteria for employers to determine whether their existing paid sick leave provision is more favourable than the proposed statutory provisions provided in the Bill:
• The period of service of an employee required before sick leave is payable
• The number of days an employee is absent before sick leave is payable
• The period for which sick leave is payable
• The amount of sick leave that is payable
• The reference period of the sick leave scheme.
Records of an employee who availed of sick leave must be maintained for four years.
Employers must keep proper records for each employee. Regarding SSP, information that must be recorded include:
• The employee’s period of employment
• The dates of statutory sick leave in respect of each employee
• The rate of statutory sick leave payment in relation to each employee.
An employer who fails to maintain accurate records may be convicted and subject to a fine of up to €2,500.
The new legislation will impose a cost on the company if they don’t have a sick leave scheme in place.
However, the company should not ignore the potential benefits of practicing paid sick leave. According to the sick leave bill 2021 regulatory impact assessment document, benefits for employers include:
• reduced employee turnover
• managing absenteeism
• promoting a safer work environment.
In conclusion, the Sick Leave Bill may have been approved by the Cabinet but amendments to it may be introduced before it’s signed into law.
Employees should be prepared for further changes and keep up to date with further government announcements.
Our UHY FDW payroll specialist can assist with any queries you may have in relation to SSP or any other payroll matters.
Contact our team to schedule a call with one of our experts.
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